A fintastic way of educating children about their environment is going swimmingly in ten Lancashire schools this year, despite the pandemic.
All are involved with Trout In The Classroom, part of Ribble Rivers Trust’s Ribble Life Together project, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Although Trout In The Classroom has been running for several years, 2020-2021 is the first time that many of its activities transferred online owing to lockdown restrictions. This education programme involves children monitoring the development of trout from eggs to fry, before releasing them in nearby rivers.
This year’s scheme began in January when the eggs were delivered in tanks to Worsthorne, Springfield Community Primary, St Stephen’s CE, Brunshaw and Ightenhill Schools in Burnley; St Mary’s RC in Chipping; Brennand’s Endowed CE in Slaidburn; St Mary’s Hall at Stonyhurst; and St George’s CE in Chorley.
For the first time, Trout in the Classroom has even reached beyond the Ribble catchment this year to The Oaks Primary School in Bolton.
Those children who have attended school throughout the pandemic have been keeping a close eye on their fishy friends in their classrooms, as have the Trust’s education officers who have been visiting every week. And although the majority of pupils have been learning at home, they have not missed out as the Trust has produced videos, presentations and other resources to cover a wide variety of environmental topics which can be accessed online.
“For the first time ever, we explained the trout’s life cycle via Zoom to children at home who asked lots of questions so even though they weren’t in the classroom, they still felt fully involved,” said education officer, Neil Ashworth.
And Neil has been taking his work home with him too as the spare tank of trout which are usually kept at the Trust’s office in Clitheroe are now living in his spare bedroom where they have been filmed for some of the online resources.
While the eggs have been developing, the children have learned about the river and its habitats and teachers have been able to link the project with curriculum subjects including science, literacy, geography and art.
Once the eggs hatch out, the trout start looking for food and the children can feed them.
Neil is determined that the pupils will also be able to watch the trout being released after the Easter break as most missed out on this activity last year when the first lockdown restrictions were in place.
Trout In The Classroom has had some spin-off benefits too as four of the Burnley schools bordering Towneley Park have been participating in litter picking and tree planting sponsored by the Friends of Towneley Park.
And for the first time, the Hodder Consultative, which includes fishing clubs on the Hodder, are sponsoring the Chipping and Slaidburn schools in the hope that the children’s involvement with Trout In The Classroom might encourage them to take up fishing as a hobby which has waned among young people in recent years.